- Paul Johnson wins the chess match with Bud Foster. Unfortunately for us, Bud's pieces include two very young linebackers that have been known to play a little too instinctively. We all saw what happened the last time we were in Atlanta when Jake Johnson followed his instincts (hint: touchdown Upchurch). If GT wants to dominate the Hokies, they have to exploit the overaggression of the young linebackers and set up some timely throws over the top to Bey-Bey Thomas. I believe Johnson will find some yards out of the Tech D, and there are two ways this could go: Either the bend-but-don't-break Nebraska type of game, or the bend-then-break Alabama type of game...defensively speaking of course. If the latter takes place, the Hokies will have another long trip home from the ATL.
- They force a turnover or score quickly. While Homecoming isn't sold out just yet, the "other" Tech fans that will be in attendance will be pumped. Georgia Tech's defense hasn't been able to slow anyone lately, but a loud crowd that helps cause early mistakes (e.g. turnovers, penalties, coverage breakdowns) could spell disaster for the visitors on Saturday.
- Kam Chancellor acts like typical, overaggressive, "blame everyone else" Kam Chancellor. Saturday is about playing disciplined, assignment football. Chacellor has proven that this is not his strong suit. The fact that he sells out for plays leads to big hits, and sometimes interceptions, but it also has caused major lapses and big plays against the Hokie defense. Chancellor's blown assignments also tend to snowball when he initiates finger pointing and bitching (Jimmy Williams anyone?) as a result. If Chancellor makes mistakes early and often, Thomas and the Jacket offense could be in for a big night.
The Hokies will win if:
- Bryan Stinespring continues his recent trend of calling effective, game-managing type games. Because Georgia Tech will run the ball over 70% of the time, they will look to wear down Tech's defensive line and time of possession will be big. Stinespring might think quick strikes are great for morale, and obviously the points (much like Boykin's touchdown last week), but our defense needs the offense to try and hold onto the ball as long as possible. The last thing the Hokies want is to get into a shootout mentality, because the defense will not be able to hold up. Luckily, Tyrod Taylor has been managing this gameplan to perfection over the last several weeks.
- The defensive line gets penetration against the Jackets and hits Josh Nesbitt early and often. Nesbitt will be jumpier if he's forced into early decisions, whether pitching, keeping or throwing. It is important for the defensive line to neutralize the inexperience of Johnson and Rivers by dictating how the Jackets run their offense.
- The special teams continue to pull their weight and control field position. Bowden is first in the ACC in net punting average, while Dyrell Roberts sits second in the nation in kick return average. If the Hokies can control field position, and take points when they can get them (kick the damn field goal, Frank), they should help control the tempo and keep the crowd out of the game.
The key stats for Saturday are time of possession, Georgia Tech's first down YPC, average starting field position, and red zone conversion percentage. Overall, I just don't feel great about this game. The hype and the pundits are weighing on our players' ears. If they buy into their hype, even a little bit, this will be a close game, or we will lose outright. The intangibles point entirely toward Georgia Tech. However, I'd say that I consider the VT Offense/GT Defense an advantage, the VT Defense/GT Offense a push (with a slight edge to GT), and Special Teams to heavily favor VT. With regards to talent, the Jackets just don't have it on the defensive side of the ball. I think if Bryan Stinespring can stay out of his own way and coordinate like he has recently, the Hokies should win. Georgia Tech will get their yards, and probably their points, but the Hokie defense has to be opportunistic and force turnovers. I think this will scare us all more than we'd like, but I'll go ahead and make my standard homer prediction:
Ramblin' Wreck 23